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Walk through the Battery Street Tunnel Sunday + What will be its legacy in our city?

Promo image from the event listing.
Promo image from the event listing.

The Battery Street Tunnel has been part of Seattle for 65 years, but very few people have ever had the opportunity to walk through it. Well, Sunday morning is your chance.

Walk the Battery is a free public event, part of an ongoing art initiative “b’End Tunnel” by Aaron Asis and Project Belltown that will “celebrate the Battery Street Tunnel in its final years of service,” according to the event listing. You can register online for free to receive more info about the start.

Though participants are encouraged to bike to the start, no bikes will be allowed in the tunnel itself (you’ll have to lock up nearby).

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The Battery Street Tunnel is set to be decommissioned when/if the new and much deeper SR 99 highway tunnel replaces the Alaskan Way Viaduct that feeds the Battery Tunnel today. Major work will reconnect much of the street grid between Belltown and the waterfront as well as in South Lake Union. 

Battery_Street_Tunnel_construction_Seattle_1952The legacy of the Battery Tunnel is mixed. On one hand, it is not a freeway trench slicing through the city the way I-5 does in Seattle and many other freeways do in so many other American cities. It’s very hard to imagine what Belltown would be like if Battery Street were like the awful I-5 trench separating Capitol Hill from downtown, but that tactic for building urban freeways was very common in the middle of the 20th Century.

Perhaps the Battery Street Tunnel is the perfect case for what we have to gain from lidding I-5.

On the other hand, the Battery Tunnel enabled the Viaduct and the awful freewayization of Aurora Ave, which should really be more like a busy commercial boulevard instead. Though the new SR 99 tunnel could help the waterfront (so long as planners don’t follow through with plans to build a surface highway anyway), the new tunnel will only exacerbate problems along an Aurora Ave that slices through many growing communities.

In that way, perhaps the Battery Street Tunnel’s lasting legacy along Aurora Ave, which will live on thanks to the new tunnel, is also a good case for why removing the downtown stretch of I-5 would be even better than lidding it.

If budgets are the clearest sign of a community’s values, then major pieces of infrastructure have a lot to tell us about our history. Here’s your chance to see up close what the city and state valued in 1952.

More details from the event listing:

Please join our Walk the Battery event as a public invitation for the City of Seattle to walk through the Battery Street Tunnel on Sunday, March 5th beginning at 9:30am, in Belltown.

Event Details

Walk the Battery is part of the b’End Tunnel public art initiative intended to celebrate the Battery Street Tunnel, in its final years of service. This event, entitled Walk the Battery, will temporarily allow the general public to share a one-of-a-kind walking experience through this ‘auto-only ’public passage – at the threshold of a new downtown waterfront.

“Walk the Battery is opportunity for the public to physically access a unique piece of Seattle’s infrastructural history – past, present and future. We hope this walking event inspires new conversation about the history, legacy and fate of the Battery Street Tunnel”

Please register for confirmation of event location on Bell Street.

Please share the experience #walkthebattery #bendtunnel

Additional Details

Prepare for outdoor and unpredictable weather conditions.

Prepare for a total walking distance is approximately 2-3 miles

Children, friends, parents, and lovers are all welcome!!

Photos, press, and other media are all welcome!!.

Please no bikes, skateboards, or roller skates on SR-99.

Registration is FREE of cost to the general public.

(There are NO restrooms or seating areas during the event)

Event Support

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10 responses to “Walk through the Battery Street Tunnel Sunday + What will be its legacy in our city?”

  1. Peri Hartman

    Tom, I’m curious about the small statement: Major work will reconnect much of the street grid between Belltown and the waterfront as well as in South Lake Union. Do you have a reference to more details? How will this affect peds and bikes? Thanks.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      You know, that’s worth its own updates. I checked, and my existing posts on the subject are a few years old at this point.

      For Belltown, check out this post and the linked documents. You can see how the waterfront boulevard will climb up to Belltown, connecting into the street grid: http://www.seattlebikeblog.com/2015/07/01/our-latest-look-at-plans-for-a-new-downtown-waterfront/

      For South Lake Union, I have not posted about the street grid plans for a long time. I’ve added it to my to-do list! In the meantime, this PSBJ story from a year ago gives you an idea of what they’re thinking: http://www.bizjournals.com/seattle/blog/2016/02/this-seattle-neighborhood-will-get-a-dramatic.html

      1. Peri Hartman

        Thanks, Tom. I was familiar with the connections between 5th N and Dexter but am not familiar with what’s potentially happening to connect to the waterfront. Thanks for posting the link to your old blog post. However, a map showing existing streets and proposed changes would be helpful. It’s hard to tell from the minimal map where the overpass will extend down from the pike place market. If you’re going to do this in another blog, I’ll just wait for that :)

      2. Tom Fucoloro

        Yeah, I’ll get into that in a future post. There may be updated info by now that I’ll try to track down, but this document from 2014 gives you a general idea for the Belltown connections: http://waterfrontseattle.org/Media/Default/pdfs/2014_0918_Design_Commission_North_of_Union_web.pdf

    2. RossB

      Here is a good map: http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/docs/mercer/2013_0306__MWest_PhaseMap.jpg. This is arguably the best part of the entire project. I think the whole thing was a big waste of money (from every perspective, including driving) but it will be really nice to improve the grid.

      There is great potential there from a transit and biking perspective. Denny is a mess, and avoiding it could save a huge amount of time. Since you can’t drive over Aurora right now, “taking lanes” (for either buses or bikes) should be fairly easy, from a political standpoint. I came up with a bold proposal — sending a bus through the Seattle Center — that likely won’t happen. But that idea (and a more realistic one) was the focus of this blog post: https://www.seattletransitblog.com/2016/10/13/metro-8-after-bertha-is-finished/. The first link on that page has a map showing where the 8 could go.

  2. Wells

    The Waterfront blueprint is adjustable, can be changed in widths, walkways.
    Even too long crosswalks can be addressed. I want to see the latest median ideas, please.
    Frickin sick of your DOT people. Always more highways, yup, uh huh.
    When Wsdot nixed Marine Dr after their big CRC bridge review tanked,
    they put its first element to finish first off, Marine Dr Xchange.
    Then I knew Wsdot CRC chief should not be trusted.
    All buildings above the DBT route are now more vulnerable
    to earthquake and settlement structural problems.
    I warned you guys, over & over, but well, we’ll see won’t we?
    Probably see settling soon enough, cover with landscaping.

  3. Seabikedad

    Any hope of turning the tunnel into a car-free bike route when it closes to traffic? That’d be a very convenient connection between slu and the future waterfront bike path!

    1. RossB

      Yeah, it would be really nice for bikes or buses. I’m not sure what they are going to do when the other tunnel is done.

  4. mark

    Wow, no bikes skateboards or skates. They really know how to take the fun out of things.

  5. […] Single use Battery: If you’ve ever wanted to walk through the Battery Street tunnel, Sunday is your opportunity to do it. […]

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